O's tame A's for wild Loewen

Lefty walks 6 in Orioles return, but Mora, Tejada have RBIs in 7th

Orioles 5 Athletics 3

July 18, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

The Orioles had grown accustomed to this type of outing from one of their young arms every five days. For nearly 3M-$ months, the club sent Daniel Cabrera to themound and watched himmix periods of dominance with frustrating wildness, until their patience finally ran out.

They demoted Cabrera to Triple-A Ottawa last week, and summonedrookie Adam Loewen totake his spot in the rotation. Lastnight, Loewen did his best Cabreraimpression, allowing only onehit in five innings butwalking six.

His wildness didn't prevent the Orioles from winning their third straight game, a 5-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics before 19,652 at Camden Yards.

Melvin Mora and Miguel Tejada each hit two-out RBI singles in the seventh inning off Oakland reliever Kirk Saarloos, withMora's liner breaking a 3-3 tie. Chris Raypitched a scoreless ninth for his 23rd save for the Orioles (44-51).

Loewen didn't figure in the decision, but he did send Orioles fans on quite a roller coaster ride during the 99-degree night. In addition to his six walks, Loewen hit Nick Swisher twice and committed a balk that led to one run. He did strike out five and left with his team nursing a 3-2 lead.

"Sweat just kind of ran down my palm so I had to grip the ball harder to get it down in the zone," Loewen said. "If you look at the positive things in the game, I gave up one hit, the bullpen did a great job, we hit the ball well and we won the game."

The A's (48-45) tied the game at 3 with a run in the sixth with Jay Payton stealing home when catcher Ramon Hernandez couldn't handle Tejada's throw after Chris Britton picked Milton Bradley off first.

Loewen, the Orioles' first-round selection in the 2002 draft, impressed team officials with his composure and his competitiveness in his first stint with the club, lasting five starts and seven appearances. However, he struggled with his control - as has been his trademark throughout the minor leagues - and wasn't able to go six complete innings in any of his outings.

He was optioned back to the minors after his last start against Washington on June 24 when the Orioles signed free agent Russ Ortiz. Before leaving for Ottawa, the 22-year-old met with Orioles officials, including manager Sam Perlozzo, who told the pitcher to dominate in the minors and force his way back up to the majors.

Loewen did just that, going 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA and holding opponents to a .143 batting average. He walked three and struck out 21 in 21 1/3 innings.

"I am hoping those three starts in Triple-A did even more for him," Perlozzo said before last night's game. "He's a competitor.

If he throws the ball over the plate, he's able to get major league hitters out."

Mora said the A's were impressed, too.

"I was talking to Frank Thomas, and he was saying [Loewen is] one of the toughest lefties he ever faced," Mora said. "He reminded him of Al Leiter, coming from the top. That's a good thing, when you hear other big guys talking good about a young guy."

Each of Loewen's first four starts came against a former Cy Young Award winner, a major league record according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Last night, Loewen's opposition, righthander JasonWindsor,was making his major league debut. The 24-year-old was a combined 12-1 with a 3.63 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A and had a 12-game winning streak when he was called up before yesterday's game.

"The good thing is he's not a Cy Young winner that we know of," Perlozzo joked.

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first on Tejada's RBI single against his former team. They expanded their advantage to 3-0 in the third, afterWindsor's twoout throwing error.

Given a 3-0 lead, Loewen started to unravel in the fourth. He opened the frame by issuing back-to-back walks to Eric Chavez and Thomas. He then appeared to work his way out of trouble, by getting Payton to pop out and striking out Bradley.

But then he walked Bobby Crosby to load the bases and brought home a run with a free pass to No. 9 hitter Mark Ellis. With the bases loaded, Loewen was called for a balk with Kendall at the plate, cutting the Orioles' lead to 3-2.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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